I was asked this past week by several people “IF” I would be attending the Alabama and Tennessee game this weekend in Tuscaloosa.
I get that question by a few people each and every year during this time we like to refer to as “The Third Saturday in October”.
I will make an excuse or a joke or two about there not being any lines at the restroom in my house with “Doc” the World-Famous Black Lab and I might even mention something about having “The best seat in the house”, but none of those things are really true.
You see, there was one time, a moment frozen in time for me that can never be replicated or copied.
If you have a minute, I will tell you a story about it.
My former position Coach and then Athletic Director at The University of Alabama, Mal Moore invited me one year to “watch” the Alabama and Tennessee game from a Skybox that the University rented at the University of Tennessee.
I jumped at the chance to go, not just to see the game but to visit with Coach Moore, who I always looked up to, taught me so much about life and treated me like a member of his family.
Also, too, I liked to make Coach Moore laugh and he enjoyed me making him laugh.
I love that man.
It was a night game in Knoxville, and I was told to get there in the early afternoon. I left “Doc” the World-Famous Black Lab at home to watch the game from the comfort of our recliner and I took off for the stadium.
I made my way through stairs and elevators and the appropriate security, and soon I was escorted to this lavish suite high up in the stadium overlooking the field.
I arrived and there were several Athletic Department Assistants of one type or another in there along with Coach Moore. I quickly walked over to him, shook his hand and hugged his neck while thanking him for the invitation.
Coach Moore always made time for me, as a student athlete and as a grown man.
We chatted for a few minutes and I got a good giggle or two out of him and then he got busy again being the Athletic Director.
Let me tell you something before the story travels down the road about those luxury skyboxes.
Those things are first class, “yes” even at the University of Tennessee.
There was food, everywhere and there was a bar and refrigerators and coolers with everything imaginable to eat or to drink to include snacks and appetizers of every type.
There were televisions all over the place and in every corner of the suite, so you didn’t have to miss a minute of the action on the football field.
If that wasn’t enough, the view from the skybox was incredible, looking down on the football field at that height must be what it’s like watching a game from heaven.
It was a few minutes before the game started when the activity picked up in the suite.
The door would open and a former All-American would walk into the suite to greet Coach Moore.
Dwight Stephenson, College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, All-American
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, All-American, Heisman Trophy Winner
Bart Starr, College Football Hall of Fame, Pro Football Hall of fame, and..
Super Bowl (s)
Leeroy Jordan, Dallas Cowboy, Super Bowl(s), Pro Football Hall of Fame
Joe Namath enough said.
And on and on they came through the door, Legends of the Fall, while I now stood in the corner watching some of the greatest football players that ever lived walked through the door and socialize with Coach Moore and presumably to watch the big game from the best seats in the house.
Although I was “nobody” at Alabama, it was a pleasure to see them, to be in their company.
To listen to them…
I was standing in the far- left corner of the suite looking at the field as both teams were completing their pregame warmups and I thought I would grab a beer before kickoff. So, I went over to one of the coolers I had inspected earlier that had my favorite brand of adult beverage.
EDITORS NOTE: In case you were wondering what my favorite brand of adult beverage is….
I will tell you what it is..
But that aside, I was in the process of withdrawing one of those cold refreshing beverages when I heard a voice say, “If you are going to grab one you might as well grab two of them.”
I turned around and Kenny Stabler was smiling, with his hand out to take his beverage.
Kenny “Snake” Stabler
Alabama Quarterback, Professional Football Legend and Super Bowl Champion.
He introduced himself, shook my hand and I thought that was it for the conversation.
I was wrong.
He asked me questions, about me, as we each enjoyed our cool beverages.
Just two guys, one a living Legend and the other a nobody. Just talking.
EDITORS NOTE: I am assuming that you know the difference in the descriptions above without any further clarification.
Everybody came over to shake Kenny’s hand, they would look over at me and Kenny would say to them with a big grin on his face..
“Hell, you know Mike!” Then he would turn to me and say “Mike, this is so-in-so”
I meet them all, the greats of the game. Shook their hands, exchanged a few words about Alabama Football and life in general. It was something else.
When the game began, Kenny and I took our seats near where I was standing earlier …
We talked about the game, other things too.
I asked him about his playing days, at Alabama, Oakland, and with Houston.
We talked about Alabama Football, Coach Saban and Coach Bryant and life.
Gentle questions back and forth while watching and commenting on the game being played.
Laughing at one another’s comments and jokes.
Just two guys having a few beers and watching the game…
It was one of the greatest experiences of my life
Sometime between the first and second quarter Coach Moore came over to where Kenny and I were setting and with a big grin on his face said, “I don’t know if you two trouble makers should be congregating over here together. You two are probably plotting to overthrow the world.”
We all three laughed…
I laughed, but I was also flattered to be included in the same league of a troublemaker as “The Snake.”
Other than Joe Namath, who was in attendance as I said earlier
Kenny Stabler was, is the coolest cat to ever play quarterback on and off the field.
That’s a Fact
Broadway Joe came over at halftime to talk with Kenny, I shook his hand we all three talked.
I don’t have the words to describe how amazing it really was…
Just shooting the bull with my childhood idols, right there at an Alabama, Tennessee football game.
Nobody important me, right there talking with two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play football.
EDITORS NOTE: I was referring to only Kenny and Broadway Joe in that above statement, in case you were confused in anyway.
It was an incredible night with Alabama, once again defeating Tennessee.
As is customary for the winners in this game, Victory Cigars were passed around the Skybox and soon the entire room was covered in a warm aroma of burning cigars and blue smoke.
I didn’t want the night to end
But as the last handshakes and hugs were shared between old teammates and legends, the room slowly became nearly empty. Reporters were waiting semi-patiently outside the Suite to talk with Coach Moore, Kenny, Joe and few other legends in attendance.
I thanked everyone for a great evening, and hugged Coach Moore’s neck.
I shook Kenny’s hand and thanked him, for hanging out with me during the game.
He said, “I enjoyed the hell out of it Mike, we’ve got to do this again sometime.”
But like a lot of things in life, sometime never comes back around.
Kenny is gone and so is Coach Moore and many others that were in attendance that night.
They are gone but my memories of that evening game are still there, fresh and alive.
I never bought into “so-in-so” is looking down on you or is watching out for you.
If you happen to believe in that, I don’t mind, I just never bought into it myself.
But I will say this…
That night, above the stadium it was like watching a game from heaven.
With so many of them gone now, that’s how I want to remember it.
Watching the game with them from heaven.